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'I 100% agree with the TMO call' - Springboks refuse to lay blame with officials

Jacques Nienaber said he had no complaints despite seeing his team fall on the wrong side of a number of tight calls.

South Africa captain Siya Kolisi.
South Africa captain Siya Kolisi.
Image: PA

SOUTH AFRICA HEAD coach Jacques Nienaber refused to criticise the officials after seeing the Springboks fall on the wrong side of a number of tight and controversial calls during their 22-17 first Test defeat to the British and Irish Lions today.  

The Springboks – who surrendered a 12-3 half-time lead in Cape Town – saw two tries ruled out in the second half, while Lions substitute Hamish Watson also escaped a yellow card following a dangerous tackle on Willie le Roux.

The Springboks boss was asked about the Watson tackle but did not directly address the incident.

Yet he repeatedly refused to lay any blame at the feet of the officials. 

Nienaber was asked if he agreed with the decision to cross out a second-half try for le Roux. Referee Nic Berry’s on-field decision was a try, but South African TMO Marius Jonker decided the player had been marginally ahead of Lukhanyo Am when the South Africa centre kicked the ball, crossing out the score.

“I thought it was tight,” Nienaber said of the disallowed try.

“When we saw the try and that it was given (on field), we as coaches felt it was going to be unbelievably tight.

But I completely trust and agree with the decision they made. That is their profession, that is what they are good at. In my opinion it could have gone both ways, but I 100% agree with the TMO call there. 

“They are in a position where they have all the angles. Sometimes those inches go for you and you score a brilliant try from a counter-attack, and sometimes it goes against you.”

Nienaber also explained where he felt the Springboks had lost the game.

“I think in the second half we lost it in the air, in the kicking game,” he said.

“I thought we got the rewards in the first half and then obviously in the second half I thought they dominated in the air and that gave them territory and broken play and then we had to scramble from that. 

I said at half-time, keep on doing what you are doing, because it is working for us. We were creating opportunities and playing in the right areas of the field. The attacks we launched forced them to make errors and that’s how we got penalties and that’s how we kicked it over. 

“We felt that there was two areas we had to step up (in the second half), and one was the breakdown. I thought they attacked the breakdown a lot, and we felt that was an area they were biting at so we had to sort that out. 

“Then we had a big discussion about our discipline, and I think that’s the big thing in the second half. 

“I thought our discipline wasn’t great in the second half and a sad thing is we actually highlighted that at half-time, and said that we needed to make a step up there, and obviously we didn’t.”

The Springboks visibly appeared to tire in the second half, which was perhaps expected given their disrupted lead-in to the Test series.

However South Africa captain Siya Kolisi, who had been a doubt for today’s game having contracted Covid at the beginning of the month, said he had no complaints about his fitness.

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“Obviously late in the game we were tired, but I can’t blame Covid for anything,” Kolisi said.

“I feel fine. I had a great week of training and that (Covid) definitely didn’t play a role in that (result).”

Kolisi also refused to be critical of the referee.

“I can’t make that call right now, but I thought he was fair today. I’ll have a look at the game afterwards and then speak to him during the week.” 

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Ciarán Kennedy

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